Drone Deploy and DJIs POI Mode copter image acquisitions

Using DroneDeploy and the POI mode of DJI  (this article was first published on jenacopterlabs.de).

Have been doing some leaf-off flights now in March on one of my favorite sites for complex tree crown point cloud mapping. To add to the leaf-on data from last autumn.


Fig.: Leaf-Off point cloud with combined height color coding and reflectance color coding.

This time I also checked the full automatic flight modi using the POI (Point Of Interest) mode from DJI and Drone Deploy with the P4Pro and the P3A.

Both work perfectly although I believe the POI mode can be dangerous when its done with low altitudes. You have to carefully check that the radius is free from obstacles when you define the center position, altitude and distance from center (radius) for the POI flight. When POI is started it begins with comparably low speeds. You can modify the speed setting when the POI mode started. Unfortunately you cannot modify this stetting before you start. Tuning the speed on an iPad or (even more difficult – on an iPhone) is kind of dangerous because you easily move the slide too much to higher speeds than wanted and the copter will immediately accelerate and start circling your POI object like crazy until you managed to move the slider to slower speeds. There is however always this stop button to kill the POI mode – this is handy and needed sometimes. When you press the stop button the copter stops the POI mode completely and waits for new commands.

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Phantom 4 Pro Flare Tests

Did some more tests with the Phantom 4 Pro:

The into the sun shots just capture a lot of flare and the sun star is very much Samyang 14mm like. This is an issue and it reduces the image acuity for 3D point cloud modeling for object measurements as well as for the landscape panorama approach.

The against the light shots look very much like the Samyang/Rokinon  14mm lens character. The sunstar has light rays that increase in size from the center and these rays cover the full frame of the 1inch sensor when the illumination comes from one of the outer edges. It clearly degrades the full image when the lens is stopped down to f.e. f8 but gets better when the lens is driven wide open. There seem to be some diffraction effects at work that are clearly not so great. You can drive the camera to generate sharp sun stars, but as usual here the characteristics of this star make a difference to some of us.  The Samyang like star is not so well received. The linked flare issue however is much more a problem because it is hard to avoid when you have the sun in your frame and when the lens is stopped down to f8 or f11. For some scenarios a lens hood may be useful but its only functional for those shooting scenarios where the sun is not within your FoV.

To be honest I am bit puzzled … this is the first affordable 1-inch sensor platform with nice resolution and better DR, but – the flare issue is likely killing some of the potential ideas that you might develop with this machine. A pitty!

Some examples:








Comparison shot done with the Phantom 3A, clearly shows that the lens/sensor combi wont give the same amount of flare here (again different light level and different sun illumination angle):


Multi Copter Photography and Photogrammetry

Multicopter Photography and Photogrammetry


Late this year I bought a Phantom 3A (Advanced). The prices went down and these platforms are so affordable now that it makes sense to test it out.

The main applications for my work are multifolded:

  1. Special shootings for paying clients,
  2. regatta event shots from above,
  3. very early morning misty landscape stills and
  4. large scale or near range photogrammetric mapping for research purposes with applications in forest biomass mapping and archaeology as well as biotop-typ delineation and fine scale analysis of vegetation structure and slope stability analysis.

Clearly 1-3 and 4 will very nicely cooperate. Its just wonderful to experience how photography and research can come together here, makes me wonder sometimes how I managed to get into that cool spot where I get payed to fly a remote controlled camera … :-)


Being not new to copter flying, I found the Phantom 3 to be really easy to fly. Once you mastered the documentation and some basic theory about controlling a quadro-copter its really a simple excercise to control these devices. This is mainly due to the perfect GPS controlled position hold of the Phantom. It just stays where you put it (in opposite to gliders) and this makes it also kind of boring to fly a copter. The DJI GO app that is used on a mobile device to check the telemetry data and to control the lifeview provides a nice overview about position, viewing angle and overall status of your copter. You can also modify shooting parameters, change the camera viewing direction and check speed, height and remaining flight time, battery status and the number of satellites. Other apps support fully automatic mapping modes with variable overlap configurations (Data Mapper or Drone Deploy).

P3 installed on a LowePro backpack fully functional with installed props and ready to fly in a minute.

Some DJI Phantom 3 A Specs:

  1. Image Data capturing in 12MP Adobe DNG RAWs, gimbal stabilized! & damped. 2. HDR with 5 exposures each 0.7EV under/over-ex-> RAW DNG HDR computation. 3. Sony EXMOR 1/2.3“, 12.4MP, 94°lens (20mm focal length equiv. tilt.), ISO100-3200, 8-1/8000s, single shot, multiple shot, exposure series (3/5), DNG RAW format, video: FHD upto60p, 2.7k upto30p, 4. Memory: MicroSD up to 64GB cat10.
  2. Control: GPS/GLONASS controlled position hold, visual Realtime-Position-Tracking (VPS – Vision Positioning System) up to 3m flight alt. (P4pro: 10m). RTH (Return to Home Funktion), Battery Low RTH, Security-RTH, software controlled flight altitude (override possible): 120m, autostart/-landing, beginner modi, (OrbitModi/anti- collision (infrared/ultrasonic)/ActiveTracking/terrain follow: P4/pro/Mavic), P-GPS – GPS controled stabilising (+/-10cm position), P-OPTI (optical position control & stabilizing), P-ATTI modi (flight altitude only (barom.) – copter could start to drift).
  3. Flight parameters: weight: 1280g, climb: 5m/s, descend: 3m/s, Vmax: 16m/s (ATTI) – 60km/h, flight altitude max: 6000 m (airspace above 100 m needs a clearance (approval), RC max distance: 5km, flight time: 23 min (30min: P4pro), RadioControl: 2,4khz RC with iPad/iPhone (build in DJI Lightbridge System), realtime lifeview control per DJI GO App.



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Sailing Season Break

Winter break for the Yacht/Regatta racing event photo shootings. Good to reorganize, sending some stuff for repair and to rethink about some approaches. I will also give some other sports a try this winter – some other water related sports   … :)

Have been also looking into micro multicopter based photogrammetry with the Phantom lately – so there will be a small review about the capabilities here with more details soon.


German Open J70 – Galerie Tag2&4 online

Die letzte Galerie zur J70 German Open ist jetzt online. Durch die guten Bedingungen in Berlin bei diesem Event gibt es insgesamt recht viel ordentliches Bildmaterial. Mit Sponsorenveranstaltung/Eröffnung/Beamershow und Siegerehrung  wars allerdings auch zeitlich eines der Events mit dem größeren Aufwand dieses Jahr.

Die 3te Galerie ist nun hier online: http://soeren.zenfolio.com/j70go2

Einige Ideen sind schlicht am Wetter gescheitert, die Über-Wasser Flüge mit der Drohne sind eine Herausforderung, da ein Teil des doppelten Netzes /RTH Funktion/ schlicht wegfällt auf dem Wasser, allerdings ist das aus der Luft fischen der Phantom vom Mobo aus erheblich einfacher als gedacht. Die Phantom fliegt auch bei schwachem Wind sehr stabil, Tests mit stärkerem Wind mache ich dann aber lieber auf einem großen Feld … . Durch den Formfaktor ist die neu herausgekommene Mavic Pro jedoch eindeutig eine interessante Wahl für diese Shootings. Bleibt zu testen, wie das mit der Leistung aussieht wenn Wind aufkommt. Die Bildqualität dieser kleinen Sensoren ist grenzwertig und eignet sich (auch wenn man alle Register zieht – HDR/LR Nachbearbeitung / Pano Mosaikierung – nur für Plots bis etwas über A3. Das dürfte mit der Mavic Pro kaum besser geworden sein. Mittelfristig muss eine APS-C Kamera an die P3. Hier in der engeren Auswahl ist eine alte Cam von Rico und die A6300 von Sony, ggf auch eine Vollformat A7. Wenn man da ankommt, dann ist es fix auch sinnvoller an den Einsatz einer Inspire 1 Pro mit ZM X5 zu denken.

mtk, Sören









Shots from Above

Am letzten Tag der J70 German Open gab es dann nochmal sehr wechselhafte Bedingungen mit mehreren Schauerzellen, die recht schöne Lichtmischungen mit der wieder durchbrechenden Sonne erzeugten. Nur für die Drohne war der Tag recht schlecht geeignet. Als dann endlich dauerhafter die Sonne durchkam, war die letzte Wettfahrt auch gelaufen. Durchaus ein Problem ist, das diese Drohnen einfach gar keinen Regen vertragen. Man kann daher bei etwas wechselhaften Bedingungen im Prinzip einpacken und sich auf etwas anderes konzentrieren. Hier ein Shot von der J70 German Open. Um das Maximum an Bildqualität aus dem bescheiden großen Sensor der Phantom 3 zu holen, muss man schlicht HDR Aufnahmen machen (ohne auch den klassischen HDR Effekt erzeugen zu wollen). Da die Drohne recht beeindruckend gut ihre Position hält und der Gimbal die Ausrichtung der Kamera korrigiert sind Mehrfachbelichtungen ganz gut möglich. Dieser Shot wurde allerdings erst im Post kombiniert. Das eröffnet einem eine ganze Reihe von Möglichkeiten bei der Visualisierung von Bewegungen. Bin mir noch nicht so sicher was alles letztendlich realisierbar ist. Im Prinzip muss man sich ja über dem Regattfeld positionieren und das ist überhaupt nicht vereinbar mit den Aufstiegsbestimmungen von Drohnen. mtk, Sören



J70 German Open 2016, Gr. Fenster/Havel/Berlin.

Nikon AFS 400mm f2.8G VR Testing

Update: some nice bokeh shots with this lens (had half an hour yesterday with wonderful sun light to do some tests – its easy to send every for/background into a creamy bokeh fog with a 400mm f2.8 system. However the lens isnt a dedicated macro device – hence it will be important to see how the lens performs in the mid to far range shots and with full reflecting highlights. Especially the resolving power with very distant objects is usually a problem – even with these top-of-the-line tele lenses. My first impressions indicate that the 400mm f2.8 works fabulous with the TC14E II and also very good with the TC20E III but the AFS 300mm f2.8 mk1 wasn’t bad with the TC14E II either. The weak part was the resolving power focusing more distant things with more than 300m distance.






First tests with the new 400mm lens – the f2.8 AFS VR version – pretty much a dream tele lens and optical performance is just as what you would expect. First lens align tests seem to be spot on. The lens snaps to focus – clearly faster than my old 300mm f2.8 AFS Mk1. Some bokeh tests will follow.


The lensAlign target with the long ruler installed – approx. 20m distance – this equals 50times focal length. At f2.8 this gives a depth of field of 40cm and the lens is pretty spot-on on the 0-Mark of the ruler. No chromatic aberration  at all … . Damn cool lens – only point to think of right now is the how-to-story of “hand-holding” this lens, its just bigger than anything I used before.



Some bokeh shots:




The AquaTech Elite Sport Housing

The AquaTech Elite sport housing – submerged and split level imaging concepts

Initial text upload: 15.11.2015 – by Sören Hese

1st update: 20.11.2015



Some comments about the AquaTech Elite sport housing that I acquired early in 2015.

This was on my list since some years but I never had the budget to do this. The situation hasnt changed much in that respect – especially since the Dollar/Euro ratio hasnt moved into the right direction to order lots of gear in the US.  After checking the market for diving houses it was obvious that I do not need a diving setup. These DSLR housings for diving are much bigger and heavier and rated for more water depth than “sports housings”. The latter are more for the near surface water sports (sailing, surfing, swimming, canoeing and so on). To go for the Aquatech housing was primarily defined by the supported lens selection. The 14-24 mm from Nikon was only supported by Aquatech as far as I was able to see online.

I used the gear for approx. 15 regatta sailing events now and also tested it for waves for 4 weeks and doing numerous shots in lakes. I can already conclude that its what you expect from a professional package and/or its elevated price point and its totally reliable.

To get a maximum of image sharpness and dynamic range I wanted my Nikon D800/D810 + Nikkor 14-24mm  combination in a housing concept – here you clearly end up with an ELITE sport housing from AquaTech.

After all its very hard to develop new perspectives in the domain of yacht and regatta photography – the split level approach isn’t new but it hasnt been used too much so far and there are lots of ways to develop new imaging ideas in this domain – from below water shots or split level shots and images that include the water as abstract art are often more appealing than shooting the yacht with the usual extreme tele lens setup. Help for reasoning is however that the housing can also be used to do more of the wave/water photography that I envisioned often when traveling the northern coasts in summer.

#Construction & Components:

So what is it? The AquaTech housings are not really designed for diving – the depth guarantee is for 10 meters. Thats not much if you are into diving. The AT housings are for waves, surfing and sailing. They are made for this transitional domain between the elements – between air and water – thats where the more graphical and more interesting stuff happens as light hasn’t been absorbed and water can play its sculpturing thing (sorry all you underwater photographer … although I found it pretty exciting to shoot in these clean lakes with lots of vegetation shadowing everything and creating a wild underwater vegetation land/sub-aquatic-scape ).

Construction is pretty much heavy duty with massive polyurethan housing construction, stainless steel controls, 10 mm acryl back-plate, durable aluminium tubes and 5 mm aryl domes, solid metal locking fasteners, interchangeable anodized metal lens ports with a knurled grip surface that makes it easy to tighten everything when mounting the ports. The grip surface is so knurled that you easily scratch everything you touch with the lens port. Overall „fit and finish“ of the housing with its snap fasteners and its big enough screws is just perfect. The setup screws together and is sealed with O-rings everywhere. Weight of the housing is 1.6 kg and the PD135 f.e. adds another 600 gr. Together with the pistol grip/pole extension and other accessories installed you easily reach 3 kg. The DSLR is mounted within the housing with an Arca Style plate that snug-fits precisely into the dove tailed Arca mount that is installed in the housing. The DSLR just moves exactly into place that way and the mechanical trigger of the housing sits exactly above the DSLR trigger. 



Figure: Arca style plate setup that keeps the camera within the housing precisely in place.

Key for the functioning is an acryl dome element that is avail for a number of popular lenses. The dome construction is superb but it has one slighty anoying drawback. The sunstar of your lens is slightly distorted and not as accurate as when shot without the dome. If you like to use the sun star reflection as part of your visual concept sometimes – than this has to be taken into account. Overall sharpness and chroma aberration of  your lens isnt changed much imo. At least I couldnt find any difference in spatial resolution with the Nikon D800 NEF files after processing in LR. There seem to be some internal color reflections but its a minor issue and not at all comparable with the well known Nikkor 14-24 color reflection/flare issue at 14mm.

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Rolling Home 2015 – Galerie online

Segel-Saisonabschluss – leider …  könnte so auch rund ums Jahr weitermachen :), aber ist eindeutig sinnvoll auch mal Zeit zu haben hier und da Bilder “Reste” aufzuarbeiten.

Hier die Galerie zur “Rolling Home”. Passte diesmal alles. Irre Meldezahl bei den Folkebooten, klasse Licht und ausreichend Wind und Sonnabend dann die Beamershow mit einem BestOf der Bilder vom Samstag im SCA Clubhaus. Danke an Bettina Dittemer für die Zodiakfahrten  an dieser Stelle : – ) und die fixe Zusammenarbeit mit Angela vom Organisationsteam des SCA.

Das war dann doch mehr Aufwand als gedacht. Ist halt doch viel Material entstanden an den beiden Tagen und das Wetter war ja herrlich für die Weitwinkel-Shots in die Sonne. Die brauchen dann ja immer etwas mehr Korrektur und “cooking” im Post. Ende Oktober ist nun auf der Havel in Berlin auch das Wasser wieder recht klar, sodass doch recht gute “submerged” Kompositionen gelingen. Inzwischen klappen einige Kompositionen recht reproduzierbar –  einige der Probleme, die mich noch zu Beginn der Saison verrückt gemacht haben mit dem AT-Gehäuse sind nun Schnee von Gestern – zum  Glück.

Da mit dem Veranstalter (SCA) abgesprochen wurde eine Download Galerie zur Verfügung zu stellen, gibt es nun zwei verschiedene Galerien: eine Passwort geschützte Download Galerie (1400×900) und eine öffentliche Galerie mit Bildbestellungsoption für die volle Auflösung.

Die Mitzieher klappen etwas besser inzwischen und hab ein Faible für rote Spis entdeckt. Bei tief stehender Sonne geben die einfach einen herrlichen Kontrast zu blauen und grün-blauen Tönen – perfekt für die Halb-Unterwasser-Shots, die Spiegelungen in den Oberflächenripples sind einfach mit einem roten Spi besser zu erkennen und es gibt einfach viel besseren Farbkontrast.



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Underwater Worlds

Hab mal das verlängerte Wochenende genutzt, um das Aquatech Gehäuse etwas im Uferbereich einzusetzen. War eigentlich schon zu Ostern dieses Jahr auf der Agenda, aber dann konnte Aquatech das Gehäuse ja erst mit 5 Wochen Verzögerung liefern.

Also östlich der Müritz die herrliche Havel Quellregion für ein langes Wochenende mit der Family besucht und lange kalt baden gewesen bis mich die Kälte wieder in die Wäsche – und zum Kaminfeuer getrieben hat – Ist recht schwierig ein Bild sauber zu komponieren, wenn man durch das Wasser von seitlich/oben auf den Objektiv-Port schaut. Man kann erkennen wenn Pflanzen den Port von der Sonne abschatten, aber die präzise Positionierung ist praktisch nicht möglich ohne Sucherkontrolle. Die Ergebnisse sind aber ganz ordentlich, wenn man sich die Bedingungen klar macht. Man entwickelt ein Gefühl für die Perspektive. Wichtig ist auf jeden Fall sich im Wasser absolut langsam und vorsichtig zu bewegen, damit man keinen Schlamm/Sand vom Grund aufwirbelt. Aufsteigende Blasen vom Seegrund sind ganz klasse als grafische Elemente, aber das Timing für das Bild ist schwierig und mit den Blasen kommen auch andere Partikel hochgeschwommen. Eine Zeit lang schwamm mir immer ein Fischschwarm hinterher, aber hier muss man sich wohl noch erheblich ruhiger verhalten, auch den Schwarm vor der Sonne zu positionieren wollte nicht recht gelingen :) – naja und irgendwann wurde es dann echt kalt. Im Oktober nehme ich dann meinen Neo mit – die Wassertemperaturen sind nicht mehr so nett.

Kleine Galerie später – hier schonmal eine Vorschau (hier: Dambecker See/MVP):




SMH-DS15-510-20150913-6093285-8202 SMH-DS15-510-20150913-6093285-8318